COMMUNITY VOICES | Time to get serious about educating Minnesota’s Latino students


When I read stories about the achievement gap between Latino and non-Latino students, stories such as this one, which outlines a huge disparity in high school graduation rates, many questions come to mind. Why are Latino students falling behind and graduating less prepared than their peers? What can I do to help empower Latino parents?

No one can claim to have a perfect solution or answer, but last month I heard many great ideas discussed at a parent engagement conference for the Latino community hosted by the Minnesota Department of Education. One topic that really stood out was the need for everyone to analyze equity in our schools. We need to make sure all parents have high quality information about their child’s education. It is extremely important to have an open and honest two-way relationship with teachers and staff.

At StudentsFirst we are committed to empowering parents through both our work and through policy advocacy.  Despite the barriers that parents may face, we want to support them in building productive relationships with their child’s teacher. Every parent can ask about their child’s grade level in reading, math, and science. By asking this question, not only will you learn if your child is performing at the appropriate grade level, but it will open up the conversation and lead to further discussion on how to work together. Because teacher effectiveness is so important to student learning, every parent should feel comfortable asking about the quality of his or her child’s teacher.  Parents should be comfortable asking about the learning gains made by previous students in a teacher’s classroom.

That’s also why StudentsFirst and our members are asking legislators to take action on policies that empower parents.  We believe every parent deserves meaningful and accurate information about their child’s achievement and challenges. To be a true partner in their child’s education, they should receive a report on their child’s performance on annual state assessments.  Parents also want the most effective teachers in the front of their child’s classroom.   We are asking Minnesota state legislators to support local school leaders who are asking for changes in state law so they can retain highly effective teachers.  You can learn more about these efforts here, but the bottom line is if we’re going to get serious about closing the achievement gap, which disproportionately affects the lives of Latino students, then state lawmakers must empower parents with information. At minimum, parents should be assured that their child is learning from a top-notch teacher so that they can set their child up for a lifetime of academic success.

There are many more issues and questions like this for Latino parents to consider.  Rest assured, no matter what barrier you’re facing, we at StudentsFirst are committed to engaging you so you have a powerful voice in issues that impact your child’s education.

If you’re a parent interested in learning more about how you can become better involved in your child’s education and success please contact us. We’re here to help! You can e-mail me at


Veronica Chapel currently serves as a Field Coordinator for StudentsFirst Minnesota. Before joining StudentsFirst, Veronica worked on staff in the Minnesota Legislature and served in the Minnesota Army National Guard.

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